HOW TO DO PLANK POSE
Kumbhakasana: say it like this: koom-bahk-AHS-uh-nu
The name comes from the Sanskrit words kumbhak meaning breath retention and asana which means pose.
Plank Pose is a foundational pose and an essential component of Sun Salutations. It is often used as a transitional pose in which the breath is not held. It is an arm balancing pose that tones the abdominal muscles and strengthens the spine and the arms. It can be practised on its own to build stamina and strength. It teaches you to hold yourself sturdily like a wooden plank and gives you the grace to move smoothly through transitions.
Plank Pose is often used to prepare the body for more challenging arm balances but on its own it tones all the core muscles of the body including the abdomen, chest and the low back and will work your glutes. The wrists, arms and shoulders are all strengthened as are the muscles surrounding the spine, all of which will help you to improve your posture. If you practice Plank regularly you will build up your stamina, endurance and determination. Your back and neck posture will improve, thus creating support for your lower back. Increased stability and strength of the neck will help to counteract ‘text neck’ and promote more peaceful sleep. It is also excellent for toning the nervous system.
HOW TO DO PLANK POSE
Start on the mat on all fours. Align your shoulders directly over your hands and align your hips directly over your knees. Inhale and extend your spine, lifting your head and tailbone and stretching along the front of the body. Breathe evenly and focus on the present moment.
Spread your fingers, pressing down through your hands and forearms. Don’t let your chest collapse. Gaze downward between your hands.
Now exhale as you round your spine. Lift your belly, drawing your abdominal muscles towards your backbone.Tuck your toes and step back on the feet bringing your body into a single straight line. Do not let your hips sink or stick your bottom up. Keep the thighs lifted with your body aligned so that the shoulders are directly above the wrists.
Keep your head in a straight line with your spine as you contract the abdominal muscles. Broaden across your collarbone and shoulders at the same time as drawing your pelvic muscles up. Keep your hands firm on the mat and press the front of your thighs up towards the ceiling, keeping your body long between your tailbone and heels.
Never lock your elbows in the pose. Keep them soft by engaging the biceps and triceps and keep the space between your shoulder blades wide whilst broadening across your collar bones. This is great preparation for more advanced arm balances.
If you are not strong enough yet to support your full body weight, it is possible to do Half Plank Pose by lowering your knees to the floor but take care to maintain a long body line. If you have weak wrists you can use your forearms instead of your palms as your front grounding point.
Conversely, if you wish to deepen the pose do this by inhaling, then lifting one leg parallel to the floor, hold for five breaths and repeat with the other leg. Press strongly through the raised heel and lengthen through the crown.
Now hold the pose breathing smoothly and evenly for five breaths. If your intention is to build stamina and strength you can hold the pose for as long as one to three minutes.
To release, slowly lower onto your knees, then transition smoothly into Child’s Pose and rest. If you are practising Sun Salutations, go into Chaturanga (Knees-Chest-Chin Pose)
Do not practice the full version of Plank Pose if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead practice on your knees in Half Plank Pose or on your forearms. If you have osteoporosis avoid this pose. Your yoga practice should always be within your range of physical limits and capability.